National Labor Relations Act

January 19th, 2011

The National Labor Relations Act is a law enacted in 1935 that protects the right for employees to join a Union without the fear of being fired or intimidated by their employers.  It calls for employers to agree to collective bargaining with the Unions.   This was a huge step for employees because they became protected from unfair labor practices and allowed them to take part in strikes without the risking their jobs.  It also caused a huge increase in the amount of people who became members of Unions up to 35% of the workforce.  It was also thought that the law was enacted due to the fear that the U.S.  workforce would possibly rise up in some sort of rebellion if they were not allowed to fight for their rights as workers.  I got this information from a website titled “The National Labor Relations Act.” http://www.ibew1613.org/stewards/nlra.html

1997 Teamster Strike

January 19th, 2011

The 1997 Teamster Strike at UPS was a strike that occurred when the semi-new President of the Teamster’s Union, Ron Carey, called for UPS workers to strike across the nation due to the UPS company’s change in policy.  The UPS Company had a previous contract stating that workers would not have to lift packages more than seventy pounds, but they then they changed that amount to one hundred and fifty pounds.  This broke their agreement and Carey tried to discuss it with the UPS Company, but they would not budge.  The strike involved 70,000 workers and got UPS to back down.  It is significant because it was the first strike to continue even after a court injunction since the 70’s.  Strikes were thought to be ineffective but this showed that they could be extremely effective when they were carried out properly and efficiently.  I got this information from an article titled “Lessons of the 1997 Teamster Strike at UPS Part 1”, by Bill Leumer. http://workerscompass.org/rl/robleum2007/teamsters1997_1_leumer.html

Journal

January 11th, 2011

The article, Why Unions Matter, explains why Unions are important and the common misconceptions about them. It basically focuses on convincing the reader that Unions are necessary.  There are examples of people who are suffering because they either are not currently with a Union, or were not part of one and are now retired.  One retiree said that each month he receives only $400 for both him and his wife to survive on, and minimal health coverage.  This, he claims is a direct result of not being a member of a Union.  His example was used to encourage other employees to vote in favor of a Union.  Other stories described people who had been injured, and how without the support of the Union they would have been out of a job with no way of finding another one.  It also talks about how the media portrays Unions in a bad light, and always has a way of reporting only the negative aspects of them.  Another thing that they discussed was how employers try to discourage their employees from voting for the Union.  Some of the different tactics that are used to dissuade employees from voting for the Union are giving the employees anti-union pamphlets, making them attend meetings where they explain how “terrible” the Unions are and how they will “ruin” everyone’s lives, and have people talk to Union supporters everyday.  The last thing that was discussed was how to keep a Union going.  Some important aspects of this involved going door to door to get know the employees personally and also hold meetings to keep people informed.

One part of the article that really struck me was the story of a man who could not afford to buy a pair of steel toed shoes for work and so he had his grandmother buy them for him and turned in his receipt to the employer so he could be reimbursed.  The employer thought that he was trying to get more money than he had spent on the shoes because they had seen them sold for $37 and his receipt said he had bought them for $50.  He was fired because of that, and had he not been in a Union he would have just had to accept that.  Since he was in a Union he was able to challenge the company’s reason for firing him and won not only his job back but his lost wages.  The reason that this stood out to me was because it seems unusually unfair to accuse someone of forging a receipt just because they bought shoes that were a little more expensive then similar ones bought somewhere else.  One of the whole concepts behind Unions is that they protect people from being fired “without just cause.”  Although I know people get fired unfairly sometimes I never thought that a person needed to be protected from being fired over something so trivial.  A company’s first impression should not have been that their employee forged his receipt, but that he had bought those shoes from a different store where the price was different, or that the shoes he bought were a little different.  I guess reading about this example gave me a different understanding of the necessity for Unions because I had never heard of a real life story of someone being fired over something so ridiculous.  Initially I had thought of Unions as somewhat unnecessary for most occupations, but this helped me realize that Unions give every day people the job security that they have worked so hard for.

Discussion Question:  As shown in this article, Union members have significantly better wages and benefits.  With that being said, why then are only 12% of American workers members of Unions?